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Abstract

Originating from a bold idea, Organic Valley currently reigns as the largest organic cooperative in North America. In 1988, from the non-glaciated, hilly part of Southwestern Wisconsin, seven progressive rural entrepreneurs started a courageous and visionary journey. The founders’ original objectives were to create an organization that would provide stable pay-prices to farmers and a sustainable family farm life style. For much of its more than 25 year history, Organic Valley has achieved this mission. However, in the past few years a more hostile economic environment emerged testing the resolve of George Siemon, CEO, and the Organic Valley leadership team. This case shares the evolution of a determined, idealistic group of mostly small rural producers leading a farmer owned firm from nothing but a dream to a complex international cooperative facing an important set of challenges. The current quandary: can the original mission of Organic Valley – to simultaneously deliver a stable producer pay-price and a sustainable life style to member suppliers – be maintained?

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